As parents, we weigh every choice carefully, especially when it comes to devices like an Amazon Echo Dot. The Kid’s Edition of the Dot and the regular Dot both offer cloud-based functionality, but which smart speaker is best for your child?
You need to know it will meet your needs, including safety, durability, and functionality. There’s a lot in common and some crucial differences between these two models. We’ll walk you through what you need to know to make the right choice for you and your kid.
The same design, but more colorful
The first version of the Echo Dot Kids Edition, which comes in red, blue, and green, looks similar to the older Echo Dot models. Amazon updated the Echo Dot Kids Edition recently, and it now comes in rainbow or blue. The third-generation Echo Dot comes in charcoal, heather gray, or sandstone. The Kids Edition is based on the third-gen Echo Dot, offering better sound than previous Echo Dot models and a sleeker, fabric design.
Both devices have the same light ring on the top that illuminates when you say Alexa’s wake word, as well as volume up, volume down, mute, and on/off buttons.
The third-generation Echo Dot blends into its environment more easily than the Kids Edition. The Kids Edition looks a bit more like a colorful, high-tech toy, while the third-gen Dot has a sleek and modern look.
Tech specs and speaker
The original Echo Dot Kids Edition measures 3.5 inches in diameter, 1.5 inches tall, and it weighs 6.7 ounces. It has a seven-microphone array for voice detection, and it has a 0.6-inch driver for sound. It also has 3.5mm stereo audio output for use with external speakers, as well as Bluetooth capabilities.
The new Echo Dot Kids Edition has the same specs as the third-gen Echo Dot. Both devices measure 3.9 inches in diameter, 1.7 inches tall, and weigh 10.6 ounces. Unlike the previous version of the Echo Dot Kids Edition, which had a seven-microphone array, the new Kids Edition and the third-gen Echo Dot both have a four-microphone array system for voice detection, but they have a larger speaker driver, at 1.6 inches. Each of the devices have the same 3.5mm stereo audio output for use with external speakers, as well as Bluetooth capabilities.
Kid-friendly features and parental controls
Right out of the box, you can tell the device is tailored toward children because of the bright colors and kid-friendly user guide. Alexa is also more friendly in this version, responding with stories and age-appropriate responses. One of the main differences with the Kids Edition is that it filters out explicit lyrics on Amazon Music, and it disables voice purchasing, news, and adult-themed question-and-answer scenarios. Parents can indicate their child’s age bracket to help filter out content based on their child’s age.
You can also activate parental controls, which allow you to limit the number of hours your child can use their Echo, track communications, and limit the hours when Alexa will respond to them (so they can’t goof off when they’re supposed to be sleeping). You can access a parental dashboard, where you can track and set limits for how much time your child spends accessing entertainment and filter content based on different age groups.
The Echo Dot Kids Edition may be more kid-friendly, but it is still an Internet of Things device that is attached to the cloud, so your kids can control smart devices like lights and plugs, and the device will always be vulnerable to hacking (as is also true for the standard Echo Dot). One huge benefit is that the Kids Edition’s features will help make it so you aren’t surprised by boxes of cookies showing up on your front porch or songs filled with F-bombs blasting through your speakers.
The parental controls are great for keeping your kids out of trouble while still able to use the Dot, but parents often have questions about privacy as well. The Kids Dot model has the same privacy guidelines as other Echo devices, in that it can store data in the cloud and keep voice recordings from when the device is activated and used. This does mean, at rare times, that Amazon’s people can listen to conversations recorded by an Echo Dot. This data is used to analyze Alexa’s human speech recognition, but does not appear to be used for any other purposes, like marketing or demographic information. It is not shared, and no personal information is (like names) kept.
If parents find this disturbing, there is a solution. Both the Dot 3rd gen and the Kids Dot have a physical privacy switch that will completely disable the microphone. Of course, this means that kids can’t use any of the voice command options while the switch is on, but it also stops any potential information collection.
Communication and calls
In addition to talking directly to Alexa, both the Dot and the Kids Edition have the ability to call other people in your contacts list or use Drop In as a sort of walkie-talkie to other Echo devices in the house (nice for calling kids to dinner, etc.). However, the Kids Edition model does have the ability to limit device calling to only the contacts you want kids to talk to. In other words, kids can only call “Grandma” and “Uncle Jerry” but no one else, or however you wish to limit communication options.
Pricing and FreeTime Unlimited
The Echo Dot Kids Edition currently retails for $70 and the Echo Dot 3rd gen for $50. However, you can often find the new Kid’s Edition on sale for $50, and the 3rd-gen Dot is often on sale for $35.
The Kids Edition comes with a year of FreeTime Unlimited included, making it a better deal in the long run. FreeTime Unlimited gives you access to thousands of books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games, as well as the parental controls that allow you to monitor how your children are using the device. Kids can access FreeTime Unlimited content across multiple devices, too: Fire tablets, Kindle, Android devices, iPad, and iPhone.
You can get FreeTime Unlimited on your existing Echo devices, but you’ll need to pay a fee to do so: $3 per child or $7 per family per month if you have Amazon Prime, or $5 and $10 respectively if you’re not a Prime member. With the included year of FreeTime Unlimited, this could equal around $100 in savings during that first year. After the first year, though, you will need to subscribe to FreeTime Unlimited to continue to get the same features and options you were using before, at the same prices as listed above.
If you already have a FreeTime subscription, then activating the Kids Dot will cancel that current subscription and replace it with the free year starting right away. That means it’s better to wait until your current FreeTime subscription is about to expire before getting a Kids Dot if you want to save money.
Both the Dot 3rd gen and the Kids Dot have bundling options, which means you can include additional devices for a discounted price. However, the Dot 3rd gen is more generous with bundling options. You can add several months of free Amazon music, or include different packs of Hue smart bulbs, which naturally can be controlled via Alexa. The Kids edition only has one bundling option, the Echo Glow, a multicolor smart lamp designed for kids, which you get with about a $10 discount when bundling.
The Kids Edition comes with a two-year, worry-free warranty, compared to a 90-day limited warranty on the Echo Dot 3rd Gen. With the Kids Edition, if your child breaks the device (or it stops working during those first two years) Amazon will send you a new one for free.
Which device is better?
That depends. For young children who want a smart speaker, the Echo Dot Kids Edition will provide some added peace of mind over the Echo Dot 3rd gen. However, keep in mind that the device’s designation as a “Kids Edition” does not guarantee your child’s safety or privacy. As we discussed above, this is a cloud-connected device, just like the regular Dot smart speaker.
The Kids Edition is also tailored toward younger children as opposed to teens or adults, so that’s also something to consider when choosing between the two devices.
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